'Pacific Rim: Uprising' Star Cailee Spaeny Talks Filming Abroad & What She'd Change About Hollywood (Exclusive Q&A)

Even though she's only 20 years old, actress Cailee Spaeny has more performing arts experience than many entertainers who are later in their careers. As a child growing up in Springfield, Missouri, Spaeny took every musical and acting lesson imaginable and performed pretty much anywhere she could get an audience. Her passionate persistence paid off because she starred in Pacific Rim: Uprising, which is out now on Blu-ray and DVD, and recently filmed Bad Times at the El Royale and the Dick Cheney biopic, Backseat

Spaeny chatted with Her Campus about her experience filming in Australia and China, her role as Jane Ginsburg in On the Basis of Sex and what she wish she knew before becoming a Hollywood actress. 

HC: You grew up as one of nine siblings in Springfield, Missouri. How did you explore your interest in theater and performance arts as a kid? Was your family supportive of your acting and singing endeavors?

CS: My family was really supportive of everything that I was into. In Springfield I tried to get my hands on anything performing-wise. I started dance class when I was as little kid, and then when I turned 11, I started taking vocal lessons, guitar lessons and piano lessons. I started my own rock band, and we played cover rock songs at birthday parties. I did as much theater as I could. I worked at a theme park and a Bible theater, and a community theater. I took acting classes and sang in coffee shops. I was in my friend's recording studio in Springfield. My parents drove me around to all those things and helped me get to where I am today.

Her Campus: You landed your first, full-length feature role in Pacific Rim: Uprising, which premiered in March and just released to home entertainment. Do you remember your first day on set? What was running through your mind?   

Cailee Spaeny: My first day on set was in Sydney, Australia. We had to take a boat to this island called Cockatoo Island. We shot my first scene in the movie, which is when John's character and I meet. It was a big stunt day. I was very nervous even though I had a couple weeks of prep to learn the stunt. I felt like it was my first day at school, and the assistant directors were sending me off. They were trying to calm me down. I was very serious that day, and I was trying to stay cool and professional but also freaking out. I think I cried when they called wrap on the first day. It was so much fun.


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HC: You had never traveled outside the US before filming Pacific Rim: Uprising in Australia and China. What was the most surprising thing you learned about leaving the country?

CS: Everything was so new to me. I had to get a passport, and the flight was like 17 hours long. I'd never been on a flight that long in my life. Sydney was so beautiful, and I got surfing lessons from Scott when I was there. I tried so many amazing foods and held a koala bear. Once I got to China, I walked the Great Wall of China and tried all these crazy different restaurants, and went to Chinese karaoke night. I could write a book about the things I've done during the trips.  

HC: You're also set to appear in the upcoming Ruth Bader Ginsburg biopic On the Basis of Sex. Can you tell us a bit about your character there and how it's unique from past experiences?

CS: My character is Jane Ginsburg who is Ruth's daughter in the film. She was really interesting to play because she was really big in the young movements that were happening. She was going to Gloria Steinem rallies and really trying to make a change in that time, while also having amazing parents. She was another strong character in a very different but amazing way. The role really got into politics, so I tried to educate myself as best as I could because she was very educated in that way.


China you're pretty cool

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HC: If you could change anything about the entertainment industry, what would it be?

CS: Nothing has been super negative for me while I've been in the entertainment industry. I think the biggest thing is looks, for sure. The pressure of looking a certain way and having to present yourself a certain way is hard. It's difficult to feel genuine about yourself when you feel the pressure of being a certain person. It's scary to me because I find myself having pressure on me to be a specific type of person, and I really hope that young girls don't fall into that. I want people to stay true to who they are and how they're feeling. That's the biggest rule for myself—to always be as real as I can. It's so hard right now because you feel like you have a mirror in front of your face every time you talk to a person. You're just so worried about how you're sounding or what you're saying. The thing that I would change about the entertainment industry is the perfect image that we have of girls and guys. I think we should do that as soon as possible, because it's scary.

HC: What is one thing you wish you'd known before essentially "making it" in Hollywood?

CS: I'm still trying to figure this out, but just to know that I'm special because I'm different and my own person. I try not to change that for other people, and I wish I would've known that. The reason I got here was because I was different, and the way I was raised and the way I look all made me who I am.


@schonmagazine !¡!

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